Otter News 2006
Reservoir bid to attract otters (BBC Sat 29th April 2006)
Otter recovers from extensive surgery after attack (Monterey Herald Tues 25th Apr 2006)
Otter took a day trip away from the river Moy (Western People Wed 12th April 2006)
RITA THE ABANDONED OTTER FINDS A NEW HOME (This Is Cornwall Fri 31st March 2006)
Roadkill appeal to stop otter bug (BBC Thurs 30th March 2006)
Otter subway avoids road danger (BBC Sat 18th March 2006)
OTTERS MAKE A WELCOME RETURN TO THE WATERWAYS (This Is Bath 27th Feb 2006)
Cat parasite 'is killing otters' (BBC Sun 19th Feb)
Otters return to the Stour area (BBC Sat 21st Jan 2006)
Orphaned trio of otter cubs saved (BBC Wed 11th Jan 2006)
Reservoir bid to attract otters(BBC Sat 29th April 2006)
Wildlife lovers are hoping otters will flourish in Derbyshire after a new home for them is installed.
Severn Trent will unveil a new floating holt for the otters at its Carsington Water site, near Ashbourne next week.
The holt is designed to look as realistic as possible and will be made of plywood.
It will be formally opened on Tuesday on the eastern bank of the reservoir in the hope that it will attract otters further up the water.
Otter recovers from extensive surgery after attack(Monterey Herald Tues 25th Apr 2006)
MONTEREY, Calif. - A 7-year-old male sea otter attacked by what researchers guess was a great white shark has recovered from surgery, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The otter washed up on a beach near the aquarium in January. Aquarium staff found two fresh bite wounds on the animal's left shoulder, likely from a shark, experts said.
During a three-hour surgery at the aquarium, a veterinary surgical specialist attached small surgical steel plates to each broken bone. The otter survived the procedure and four hours of anesthesia, and was eating and grooming within hours using the surgically repaired limb.
"This was a major, very aggressive procedure done on this animal," said aquarium veterinarian Mike Murray, who also works for the Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. "It really validates that these are tough little guys who can be good surgical candidates."
The otter was released April 17.
Otter took a day trip away from the river Moy(Western People Wed 12th April 2006)
A BALLINA resident had the experience of a lifetime last week when he was bitten by an otter. Most people have never seen an otter but Chris Connolly, Riverside Drive, Ballina, got a bite from one and had to have a tetanus shot for his trouble.
The frisky little animal apparently got lost and made his way into the housing area one day last week to the delight of scores of children.
Ollie the otter gambolled around the estate and even went into a house being chased by children and, in turn, running after them.
Chris Connolly was coming back from town when the otter ran out in front of him. After a time he realised it was not a cat and he got his camera.
The otter continued into the estate, running into back gardens, and coming out again and on to the green open space area. "It was running up and down the road with kids after it and it went into a house," he said. "We tried to get it into a box so that we could take it down to the river Moy. It bit me when I was trying to do this and I later had to get a tetanus injection," he said. Even after being bitten Chris Connolly tried to coax the animal down towards the river but it went into a wooded area and that was the last he saw of it.
Ollie the Ballina otter was on a very strange day trip to the housing area because otters are very seldom seen in daylight.
Otters are nocturnal mammals. They can be seen on the banks of the Moy in Ballina. They have a very sleek body with thick brown fur and a long furry tail. They have short webbed feet and they live mostly on fish.
RITA THE ABANDONED OTTER FINDS A NEW HOME(This Is Cornwall Fri 31st March 2006)
A young otter is being lovingly reared at a Somerset wildlife sanctuary after being found abandoned. Rita, as she has been named, has been nursed at the RSPCA's West Hatch Wildlife Centre, near Taunton, since she and a sibling were found in the nearby countryside six weeks ago.
Staff observed them to see if their mother would return, but after a day realised she was not going to. The other young otter has sadly since died.
At that time Rita weighed just 500g and her eyes were still closed, but she has grown and prospered under the care of wildlife supervisor Rachael Pearson.
At first, she had to bottle-feed Rita seven times a day, gradually weaning her. Rita has slowly become more self-reliant and will soon move on to eating fish.
Because Rita will eventually have to fend for herself in the wild, staff have to ensure the young otter does not become tame.
Ms Pearson said: "The hand-rearing process is carried out solely by me. No one else handles her and I ensure my contact with her is minimal to reduce the risk of her becoming imprinted on humans."
Rita is the third otter to be taken in by the sanctuary over the past two months.
She will eventually follow the others, Edith and Diesel, to the New Forest Otter and Owl Centre in Hampshire, where they will mix with otters of similar ages. She will be released back into the wild in a year's time.
Edith was found apparently abandoned and Diesel was taken into the centre after being found covered in diesel.
Roadkill appeal to stop otter bug(BBC Thurs 30th March 2006)
Somerset's otter population has been on the rise in recent years
Wildlife experts are asking the public to help find the bodies of dead otters in a bid to combat a deadly parasite.
The otter population has been rising in Somerset in recent years, but they are under threat from a deadly fluke brought to the area by ornamental fish.
Somerset Wildlife Trust is asking people to report any otters they see which have been killed on roads.
The bodies will be tested to find out more about the worm, which causes liver damage and jaundice in otters.
There are fears the fluke could be passed on to pet cats and dogs - and even humans - if it is left unchecked.
James Williams, chairman of Somerset Wildlife Trust's Otter Group said: "Eight dead otters have been reported in Somerset, this year.
"Sadly, half were reported too late to be examined, so much valuable information has been lost and the deaths of these rare animals have been wasted."
Otter subway avoids road danger(BBC Sat 18th March 2006)
The animals' rapid decline in the 1970s is being reversed
Otters are being given their own underpass to help them negotiate a busy main road.
It is part of conservation work to encourage the animals to populate a Staffordshire waterway.
The otter underpass is a tube laid under the A5 at Cannock, allowing the animals safely to reach Ridings Brook.
An Environment Agency spokesman said there had been no recent evidence of otters at the stream, but they were known to be living close by.
Project manager Roger Prestwood said otters were made effectively extinct in the Midlands in the 1970s.
"Their populations are slowly recovering but they are still vulnerable," he said.
"We are doing our bit to encourage them at Cannock by making it possible for them to travel safely along the river.
"We hope this will tempt otters to return to Ridings Brook."
A survey in 1991 found evidence of otters at nearby Saredon Brook and the Hatherton Branch Canal.
OTTERS MAKE A WELCOME RETURN TO THE WATERWAYS(This Is Bath 27th Feb 2006)
They are shy and rarely seen hunters - but otters are returning in ever increasing numbers to Wiltshire. And environmentalists say that is excellent news as it indicates better quality waterways and the revival of a threatened species.
According to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust there are now otters on most rivers in the county.
Between the 1950s and 1990s the population plummeted and there were serious fears about their future.
Polluted rivers, wild mink and destructive human activity all counted against the handsome creatures.
But the trust's head of conservation, Harry Barton, says that a number of projects run by the charity have benefited otters as well as other species such as the water vole, barn owl and bat.
In a letter to members, he says: "That's really good news and a credit to what many people are doing. But there is much more we can do. We need to protect many other threatened species and we need to manage and grow our nature reserves that provide a haven for wildlife.
"We need to educate children and young people about wildlife and their natural environment. We need to encourage people and business to lead more sustainable lifestyles.
"And we need to tackle the very real threat of climate change."
In 2004, volunteers completed a survey of wildlife in and around the waterways of Bradford on Avon.
More than a dozen environmentalists studied the banks of the River Avon and the Kennet and Avon Canal for signs of water voles and otters.
The trust has been encouraged by the findings as it was not known then if the otters were colonising in certain areas or merely passing through.
The Bradford on Avon group covered around ten kilometres of canal banks and river courses and were delighted to find water voles active in the canal area.
Further information is available from the trust on www.wiltshire wildlife.org or 01380 725670.
Cat parasite 'is killing otters'(BBC Sun 19th Feb)
Sea otters were hunted heavily for their fur in the 1800s
A parasite carried by cats is killing off sea otters, a veterinary specialist has told a major US science conference.
The Californian researcher has called for owners to keep their cats indoors.
Cat faeces carrying Toxoplasma parasites wash into US waterways and then into the sea where they can infect otters, causing brain disease.
The parasite is familiar to medical researchers, as it can damage human foetuses when expectant mothers become infected while changing cat litter.
The most likely source of infection for sea otters is the parasite's tough egg-like stage, known as the oocyst, which is passed in the faeces of cats.
"We need to control the infections in sea otters and reduce the risk to humans by managing our cats more responsibly," said the study author Patricia Conrad of the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis.
She told the BBC News website: "That involves keeping them indoors if we can. I know that's tough; I hate cleaning cat litter boxes as much as anybody.
"But by keeping the cats indoors, we reduce the chance they're going to get infected by eating infected birds or rodents, and the chance they are going to shed their faeces outdoors."
Targeting the brain
Scientists have been documenting the deadly brain infections in otters for eight years.
It is a major cause of mortality in sea otters living off the Californian coast: Toxoplasma caused 17% of deaths in sea otters examined from 1998 to 2001.
And individuals with moderate to severe brain inflammation were about four times as likely to die from a shark attack.
Populations of southern sea otters have not recovered since they were hunted to the brink of extinction for the fur trade in the 1800s.
Dr Conrad has found that otters are more often infected with the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii near urban centres with heavy water outflow from the land.
"What appears to be happening is that cats deposit their faeces - with the parasite - on land. When rainfall comes, it washes that into waterways and the fresh water takes it into the ocean."
Once the parasite reaches the sea, it may be concentrated in mussels, oysters and clams, a major source of food for some otters.
"For the sea otters, we don't exactly know how it gets in," said Dr Conrad, "but it must be through ingestion.
"Because so many are dying, we are looking for things that concentrate the infection."
There are 73 million domestic cats in the US, and the number has doubled in the last 10 years; there are estimated to be another 78 million feral cats.
Dr Conrad was speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in St Louis, Missouri.
Otters return to the Stour area(BBC Sat 21st Jan 2006)
The animals' rapid decline in the 1960s is being reversed
Conservation work to encourage otters back to the River Stour in south Suffolk is paying off.
The Dedham Vale, Stour Valley project, which has overseen the work, said at one site near Nayland there have been frequent sightings of adults and young.
Volunteers have created artificial holts on land which has been put aside by private landowners.
The otter declined in the 1960s because of a loss of habitat, polluted water and other changes to their environment
The project has pledged to continue the work to encourage the otter to spread its range along the Stour by building artificial otter holts or refuges along the river.
These have been built using a design not dissimilar to a low slung wooden cabin.
Groups throughout the valley have been building them, including parties from local businesses, community service volunteers, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and Stour Valley Volunteers.
Orphaned trio of otter cubs saved(BBC Wed 11th Jan 2006)
Three orphaned otter cubs have been nursed back to health after a farmer found them half-frozen under his shed.
The trio, who have been called Splish, Splash and Splosh, are being cared for by the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in Highbridge, Somerset.
The cubs were chilly and hungry when found but are doing well and will soon need to be taught to swim in a bath.
They are now six weeks old and are being bottle-fed every four hours.
The cries of the cubs alerted Mr Thorne to the first two cubs which were huddled under the shed on his farm at Gold Corner near the River Huntspill.
After delivering them to the rescue centre, he returned to find a third cub near the shed.
All three cubs were placed in an incubator at the rescue centre and it took them two days to recover.
"We have reared otters in the past", said Ellie West, animal care manager at the centre, "but have always had singles and have had to pass them on to another centre to have the company of other otter cubs, only having them back to be released back to the wild.
"Because this is a family, we want very much to see them through to their release in 2007."
It is not known what happened to the cubs' mother.
The cubs can be seen on the Secret World cub cam.